Oh the wonder of it, the awesomeness of it! Can we preach too much about it? Can we sing too much about it? Can we pray too much, can we insist on it too much? Maybe we should cease to strain to understand, and we should just hear the story of grace told by the Lord of all grace and the fountain of all mercy, believed by the simple-hearted:
A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land. (Luke 15:11–14)
And this ungrateful boy, who had demanded his share before his father’s death and thus had violated one of the tenderest conventions of human society, goes and asks for a job feeding hogs—and he was a Jew!
Things got worse and worse and he had nothing and finally he had to push a hog away and try to eat some of the husks. And those who fed the hogs wouldn’t give him any. They said, “Leave it alone—this is for the pigs.” But he managed to stay alive.
Then one day he “came to himself” (15:17). He had been somebody else, but now he comes to himself. That’s repentance! And he thinks about home, about Father, and he knew that Father hadn’t changed. That’s what Jesus was trying to tell us—the Father hasn’t changed.
A long time ago, when I was in my early twenties, I’d heard the prodigal son was a backslider, but I didn’t read it in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. He couldn’t be a backslider and fit all the circumstances. I’d heard he was a sinner, but I couldn’t hear God say of a sinner, “This, my son, was dead and is alive again.” It didn’t fit the circumstances.
So I went to God and I said, “God, will You show me?” Then I went to a place all by myself. Suddenly thee flashed over me the understanding, and I have never had reason to doubt that this was God teaching me His Bible. I’ve never heard anybody else say this, and I haven’t made a lot of it. But God said to my heart, The prodigal son is neither a backslider nor a sinner. The prodigal son is the human race; they went out to the pigsty in Adam and came back in Christ, My Son.
A. W. Tozer and David E. Fessenden, The Attributes of God: A Jouney into the Father’s Heart, vol. 1 (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2003–), 112–114.